Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Light drinking while pregnant ‘does not affect’ child behaviour

  • Comment

Children born to women who drink one small glass of wine a week while pregnant are not likely to suffer any cognitive or behavioural problems, research suggests.

Light drinking during pregnancy “is not linked to adverse behavioural or cognitive outcomes in childhood”, the new study found.

Previous studies have linked heavy drinking during pregnancy to health and development problems in children. But the authors wanted to examine the effects of low-level consumption.

The study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, saw more than 10,000 seven-year-olds take cognitive tests and their parents and teachers completed interviews and questionnaires to test the children’s social and emotional behaviour.

The findings suggested that children born to light drinkers - those who drank two units or less a week - had lower behavioural difficulty scores than children born to mothers who abstained from drinking during pregnancy. Similarly they were found to have higher cognitive test scores for reading, maths and spatial skills tests.

However, when the authors adjusted the score for potential confounding factors, most of the results did not prove to be significant.

But boys born to mothers who drank small amounts during pregnancy were found to have significantly better reading and spatial skills.

The paper concludes that while children born to light drinkers appeared to have more favourable developmental profiles compared to those born to mothers who did not drink during pregnancy, after statistical adjustment these differences largely disappeared.

“In this large, nationally representative study of seven-year-olds,there appeared to be no increased risk of a negative impact of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development,” the authors wrote.

“Prior to statistical adjustment, children born to light drinkers appeared to have more favourable developmental profiles than children whose mothers did not drink during their pregnancies, but, after statistical adjustment,the differences largely disappeared.

“Our findings… support the suggestion that low levels of alcohol consumption during pregnancy are not linked to behavioural or cognitive problems during early to mid-childhood.”

Professor Yvonne Kelly, co-author of the study from University College London , said: “There appears to be no increased risk of negative impacts of light drinking in pregnancy on behavioural or cognitive development in seven-year-old children.

“We need to understand more about how children’s environments influence their behavioural and intellectual development. While we have followed these children for the first seven years of their lives, further research is needed to detect whether any adverse effects of low levels of alcohol consumption in pregnancy emerge later in childhood.”

The government’s advice to women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is that they should avoid alcohol altogether.

But if they choose to drink they should not consumer more than one or two units once or twice a week.

Jacque Gerrard, from the Royal College of Midwives, said: “There is still no clear and conclusive evidence around the amount of alcohol pregnant women can drink and the affect this may have on the developing baby.

“Evidence does suggest however that cumulative alcohol consumption has damaging effects on the baby. As a result, we continue to advise women not to consume alcohol during their pregnancy or when they are trying to conceive.”

Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.